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Recently I was playing a Hi8 tape from 1998, when I tried rewinding and rewatching a part (stopping the tape, before rewinding). The part of the tape I had just watched was highly distorted and black and white.

So, I've learned the hard way that old metal particle tapes are prone to being erased, when watched. Presumably, the 'MP' on the tapes stands for metal particle? These tapes have been stored in a safe place. How many years before this problem arises with MP tapes?

Is there a better alternative than playing these tapes into a capture card? If not, I realize that I only have one chance to capture this video. If this is the only option, I'll expect to capture until the read head becomes too affected by residue, and then stop and clean the head, and repeat. Any advice would be appreciated.


Edit

Unfortunately, I've found out the hard way there are consequences to over-using a cleaning tape. The head is either dirtier than before, or damaged.

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You do need to play the tapes onto a capture card, yes. And the sooner the better. You don't just get one attempt, but you will get a slight degradation of quality every play, so you are best off aiming to do it in one pass if possible.

I recently captured about 50 tapes from the late 80's to the mid 90's and I did about half of them then cleaned the head then did the other half. Degradation wasn't noticeable, but I just thought I should do it just in case.

As to how long you can store them - is the safe place shielded from EMF, heat and humidity, then they can last for years, but due to the nature of magnetic tape, the magnetic field strength of particles affects adjacent particles, so quality will degrade no matter what.

When configuring your capture, set it for the highest quality you can afford - as there are utilities which can clean up some noise and speckle once the signal is digitised.

  • I knew about gradual degradation with each play. Unfortunately, I apparently do have only one attempt because the tape appears to be ruined if I try and replay it. I actually haven't tried doing the obvious and cleaning the head, yet, but I'm guessing the tape I've played already is ruined. The camera can still play other tapes. – Peter Becich Jul 29 '12 at 22:50
  • If the read head is covered with metal particles from damaged tapes, can it damage tapes in good condition? – Peter Becich Jul 29 '12 at 22:54
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    Definitely - give it a clean before you start if you think there is contamination of the read head. – Dr Mayhem Jul 30 '12 at 8:24
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    Archivists use a technique where they bake old tapes when they shed is.gd/LxdRGH You might want to research this. But it does involve some risk, as you'd imagine. – stib Feb 7 '15 at 3:54
  • @stib , thanks. That's the best article on tape degradation I've seen. – Peter Becich Jul 8 '15 at 4:05

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